The former parcel delivery office in Munich

Bauhaus architecture in Munich

A little Bauhaus in Munich?

No, that’s not a reference to the DIY store situated on Landsberger Straße, but rather Munich's contribution to the “new building” epoch of the 1920s.

The reason for such a question is the 100th birthday of the most famous art and design school to be brought to life in the 20th century. Founded in 1919 in Weimar by Walter Gropius, “Bauhaus” is regarded as the epitome of modernity and without doubt the most important aspect of Germany's architectural history.

So let's go in search of clues: Against Munich’s imposing architectural backdrop of the 1920s, its puristic, cubic and reinforced concrete buildings with their flattop roofs and simple, bare plaster façades as well as curtain walls or glass corners are something of a rarity. And this despite the fact that the association “Deutscher Werkbund” was founded on 5 October 1907 in Munich as a progressive reform movement aimed at promoting forward-looking building culture and industrial design. Walter Gropius, who completed part of his studies at the Technical University in 1903, brought with him Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee – two pioneers of the Munich avant-garde scene – as masters of experimental architectural creativity.

In addition, a series of Bauhaus books were published from 1925 through the publishing house Albert Langen Verlag in Munich, the publisher behind the legendary “Simplicissimus” satirical publication. And in the short-term, Munich was even considered as a new potential location for Bauhaus. The special connections did exist, but what remains visible in the cityscape?

The Bauhaus movement propagated the unity and equality of arts and crafts under the supreme discipline of architecture. However, its liberal orientation with a social vision as a shaping force within society prevented the acceptance of the “Bauhaus Modernism”: Munich was traumatised by the bloody and defeated so-called “Bavarian Soviet Republic”. After 1919, a conservative civic attitude began forming with a tendency to preserve the traditional. A peculiarity perhaps that can be considered as an expression of the distance to the Weimar Republic, ultimately culminating in modern-day Bavaria. An artistic atmosphere of pioneering spirit with a radical and revolutionary new formal language modelled on the “Bolshevik” Bauhaus fanatics? Something very hard to establish in Munich.

And yet “new building” examples can be found from the inter-war years. There never really has been just one Bauhaus style. That is a popular cliché. Even among its first generation teachers and master students, different styles developed over time.

In Munich, the so-called “Bayerische Postbauschule” – under the guidance of Robert Vorhoelzer – went on to become an innovative representative of “Classical Modernity”. Forward-looking architecture with great clarity and the courage to leave out what does not matter. Examples include the former parcel delivery office situated on Arnulfstraße (1925-26) with its reinforced concrete rotunda, the post office on Goetheplatz (1931-32) with its elegantly curved façade or the experimental settlement grouping of postal and telegraph staff in Neuhausen (1928-29). with its ergonomic and novel “Munich kitchen”, simply separated from the living room by a glass wall.

Forward-looking architecture with great clarity and the courage to leave out what does not matter.

The so-called American block on Steubenplatz (draft: Otho Orlando Kurz, 1930) with its striking, rounded corner balconies as part of the new settlement in Neuhausen (overall planning: Hans Döllgast, 1928-30) illustrates Modernity within an urban social housing setting. The Old Technical Town Hall on Blumenstraße (design and planning: Hermann Leitenstorfer, 1927-29) was designed as a 12-storey reinforced concrete skeleton with raw brick cladding and paternoster lift. It is one of the earliest high-rise buildings in Germany. And the “Ledigenheim” hostel for men in Bergmannstraße (planning: Theodor Fischer, 1926-27) was built as an extensive architectural project with a H-shaped ground plan and a hard-brick construction in the style of Germany’s so-called “Neue Sachlichkeit” or “New Objectivity”.

No matter whether “New Building”, “New Objectivity”, “Classical Modernity” or even “International Style”, the legendary reform school gave the defining impetus. A little Bauhaus does indeed exist in Munich. Don't be afraid to take a little detour from Landsberger Straße to see for yourself. Have fun discovering!

 

 

Text: Ingrid Kubillus, Photos: Frank Stolle

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